Terre del Conero





In this section you will find many interesting facts and insights about our area, its food and traditions. You will also come across many tips about healthy eating, and there are some simple recipes that you can use to enjoy our products.

Vegetables

Horticulture been a source of pride for decades in the Marche, both for the agricultural and the commercial economy. We can say that writers and travellers have always described our landscape throughout the centuries, emphasizing that the colours of this landscape, seem like a large outdoor vegetable garden, where the beauty of the lush colours and inviting scent of the flora catches the eye, as does the breathtaking floral beauty and the aesthetic of the gardens.

Historically vegetables and vegetable supplies in general, were not only the main elements in the diet of the masses, but also in the food culture as a whole, as attested in most of the ancient recipe books and in the first expressions of culinary literature on the Marche. In fact, if herbs and legumes were considered as being a too hopelessly quaint (and humble) daily food of  the lower classes, and were snubbed by recipe books printed for aristocrats and the bourgeoisie, the finest vegetables were included in the pages of the kitchen manual. Sometimes they were even ennobled by laborious preparations, to the point of becoming elegant dishes in order to guarantee that the governing classes were observant of religious principles. There was a highly sought after repertoire of vegetable dishes that were to be consumed during the days of abstinence.

In the oldest cookbook published in the Marche region, by the Chef Antonio Nebbia from Macerata, entiled il Cuoco maceratese , in the first edition published in 1779 (and then the extended and final version printed in 1784), we can find how vegetables were a basic element in the kitchen, also for the genteel aristocracy of the Marche region. Although the author resorts to French formulas (not very well disguised, clumsy recipes made to seem Italian), the ingredients and the atmosphere belongs to his land and therefore in addition to classifying plants according to their availability in the markets season by season, he also mentions the excellence of the ‘piceni gardens’ even referring to terms of dialect («obbiete», «gobbi» e «sellari»).

A model of an elegant dish with herbs, appreciated on the tables of the aristocratic and pretentious middle-class, for example, comes from an almanac printed in Ancona at the beginning of the nineteenth century, the ‘ Il Fa per tutti. Giornale per l’anno 1819’. Here we  can find a recipe for "cardoni" for January, a soup of ‘fried turnip’ for March, ‘Italian spinach" (in butter and fried bread croutons) and ‘onion meatballs' in April , "stuffed zucchini" (with cardoons and vegetables or "mashed fish with a little mascarpone") in July, "artichokes con agresto in grani (with sour grapes in beans)" in November, "fried beetroot' in December, as well as " cabbage soup "(also "with milk", in another recipe of December).

Many recipes with cabbage and cauliflower have survived even through the humble oral tradition: Nicla Mazzara Morresi, a pioneer researcher in the rediscovery of the culinary traditions of the Marche, writes about a "rustic salad 'with' gallicchi» more tender then cauliflower, mixed with lettuce leaves and wild herbs such as the caccialepri, topped with slices of hard-boiled eggs and a sauce with olive oil, tuna, anchovies, garlic, parsley, mint and chilies in vinegar.

In 1808, the religious figure and agronomist Angelantonio Rastelli in his text ‘the Doctor's Villa’ points out: "They are of many kinds of ‘couly flowers’, namely cavolo bianco, (white cabbage), or Cappuccio (Cap), with its tough and round head, which is therefore called Cavolo a palla (ball Cabbage), and is planted in April in order to be consumed in the summer. In autumn there is the, Cavoli Romani (Roman cabbage), or primaticci (earlywood), which has large, thin and crispy leaves, which is planted in August. They are ready in the winter, and they are of good quality. Cauliflowers (Cavoli fiori, o broccoli), red or white, are planted in September or October, and they are ready for Lent; and the cauliflowers that are planted in the spring make cauliflowers in the summer.”

‘We can find Cavoli verzotti (Cabbages Verzotti), and even Cavoli a rapa (Turnip Cabbages) from which seed lamp oil is obtained, although their turnip is also good to eat, both by humans and animals’.  More than seventy years later the so-called agrarian Inquiry ‘Jacini ' conducted and written shortly after the unification of Italy (1877-1885), in outlining the state of agriculture in the Apennine area, reports of ‘short flat spaces along the course of the streams in proximity of the villages, cultivated with ‘wheat, grapes, corn, cabbage, and herbs for cattle’ and then it refers to the ‘system of associating the cultivation of wheat to that of cabbage’.

The compilers of the same investigation, observed that "some species of fruit and vegetable such as melons, watermelons, and peas are widely grown in the soil next to the sea shore, where it is easier to export the goods" and they noted that "the cardi (thistles) (commonly gobbi hunchbacks) of Macerata were renowned, as is the celery from Cingoli and the fennel of Loreto". Of these examples of excellence in the Marche, Rastelli in 1808 already recommended the fennel ("with its sale will make a good profit in due time"), reporting that, according to some, 'if you infuse the seeds in milk, or even honey before you plant it, Fennel turns out to be more flavorful and sweet ", as does even the "gobbi- hunchback "and "selleri".

In the pages of Rastelli we can look at other quotations from which we are able to prove the origin of many rustic characteristics and herbal preparations of the Marche region and its pantry, such as the roscani, that "pre-boiled is good to eat as a salad" or like the spinach that "from the beginning of autumn until Christmas is fertile and with well worked soil you can have the leaves in Lent."

But above all, the ‘Dottore della villa’ (Doctor's Villa) documents the definitive entry and progressive acclimatization of plants of American origin in the gardens of the Marche, such as peppers ("red when ripe, it substitutes pepper for use in the kitchen when you grind it, when it is not ripe it can be cultured and dried in the shade, you can put it in vinegar, and it can be used in the kitchen and for boiled meets"), and the tomato for which he proposes the making of conserves, potted or dried in the sun (some decades after the cook Nebbia first recommended its use in sauce that would be conserved for the whole year, " you can use it for soups and sauces, when tomatoes are no longer fresh in their time"), and most of all the potato.

Since the eighteenth century publications in the region have been printed, with the aim of encouraging the culture of this tuber, and in 1808 the enthusiastic Rastelli proposes a recipe that uses the potato to make bread, or that recommends "cooking it whole under the cinders, or boiled and variously seasoned," and there are even descriptions of 'excellent fried potato’ and there is another proposal that is ‘delicious for dumplings and many other dishes’.



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Terre del Conero Agricoltori per Natura, soc. coop. agr. Via Peschiera 30, 60020 Sirolo (AN) P.IVA 02474980428
European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development